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Raring to go at Newton

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1,000 Newton students signing on to itslearning this fall

This September itslearning will be launched at Newton Public Schools. The school district´s IT department, led by Leo Brahm, is currently busy training teachers and uploading teacher materials to the platform in advance of the fall semester. In this article, Leo talks about why itslearning was the right choice for Newton, his expectations for the platform and how one aspect of itslearning will open up a world of possibilities – literally.

Newton Public Schools, a school district in Massachusetts, USA, has big plans for itslearning. The platform will be rolled out in the school district this September, but a lot of work remains before the launch. Teachers have to be trained, course dashboards created and learning materials uploaded.

The district recently finished training a group of 35 teachers in the platform. In total, between 1,600 and 1,800 district teachers will use the platform, says Leo Brehm, director of information technology and library media at Newton Public Schools. “We have teachers ready to roll out the platform to students,” he says. “We are trying to make the experience for the end user as smooth as possible.”

500% projected growth in user adoption

The district has ambitious targets for itslearning user adoption. Leo expects 1,000 students to log on to itslearning this fall at least two to three times a week. At the end of the year, he expects that number to grow to 3,000. By September 2013, a year after the launch, he expects 500 per cent growth in user adoption compared to September 2012.

Leo and his team are now busy populating the different courses with learning materials. Leo says he sees great potential in making learning resources available on itslearning. Digitizing teacher resources completely revolutionises the traditional way teachers organise their materials, he says. In the past, teachers collected resources in binders.

“These binders were updated three or four times in a five-year period,” Leo explains. “We want to change that so that the renewal process happens more often. The process of reinventing and sharing curriculum will now be captured through itslearning. We hope it will be more organic.”

itslearning creates ‘shift in learning’ at Newton

Leo counts itslearning´s organization and management capabilities as significant benefits to teachers. itslearning will allow teachers to spend more one-on-one time with their students, because it will free up time teachers otherwise spend on organising their materials.

“This ability to gather this information in one spot will help us build the learning experience,” says Leo. “It will allow the teachers to be coaches or mentors. That´s really a shift in learning. We believe the itslearning learning platform will help teachers becoming the coach and mentor they need to be.”

Leo says teachers are impressed with itslearning.

“So far the comments from teachers have been excellent. They found the system to be very intuitive,” he says. “They are very excited about the opportunity to have their materials and collaboration in one spot. They have been waiting for something like this.”

Leo says he is impressed with a number of itslearning features. In particular, the e-portfolio, individual learning plans, and dashboard interface stood out for him. “I think those are going to bring a lot of success,” he said.

itslearning offers global partnerships

But he is most excited about the potential for global cooperation within itslearning. The itslearning network spans the globe, with users in schools from Holland to Mexico and Norway to USA. Though geography and nationality separate them, the users have itslearning in common.

“itslearning is a global education community,” Leo says. “It connects learning communities from around the world, and allows you to build interpersonal relationships and share curriculum.

“With itslearning, I think we can build relationships that can facilitate advancement in learning that has not been seen in the past, something that goes beyond the boundaries of language and culture.”

‘An outstanding opportunity for change’

Over time as Newton teachers become more familiar with itslearning Leo anticipates they will start capitalizing on its full potential. They can graduate on to using Google docs in the platform, the grade book and assessment tools. Eventually, Leo says, maybe even parents can start using itslearning with the parent portal.

“This community is very much ready for something like this,” Leo says. “itslearning represents an outstanding opportunity for change within education in the district.”